Disclaimer- I don't own Bleach
"Hmmm. Well, that can't be good," I mused, looking down from the school rooftop to the ground four stories below.
There was something on the ground just below where I stood and I stared at it with a lopsided frown. How did I know my frown was lopsided? Because I'm weird like that.
Back to the thing on the ground four stories below. I'm pretty sure I know what it is..The body of a fifteen year old girl in a school uniform. She had long jet black hair and pale skin, I also happen to know that her eyes were a deep shade of blue and that she was about five foot four and one hundred ten pounds.
How do I know this you ask?
I know because I'm pretty certain that the body is mine. I'm just not quite sure how I wound up there when I am obviously up here.
You can't be in two places at once... right?
Humming thoughtfully to myself I leaned a little further over the edge of the rooftop. "That's definitely me... But what in the heck am I doing down there?"
A clinking sound drew my attention to my chest where I saw a strange chain attached to me. It was about a foot in length and just dangled uselessly from the center of my chest.
"What the heck is this thing?"
I tugged on the chain, but nothing happened. It sure was attached pretty darn good. When I knew it would do me no good to keep examining and playing with the shiny object protruding from my body, I sighed and plopped myself down onto the concrete of the roof and crossed my legs. Propping my head up in my palm I tried to remember what had happened over the last few minutes. There had to be some explanation for why I was on the roof and lying on the ground four stories below at the same time.
The heavy metal door leading to the rooftop flew open, making me jump when the door slammed into the wall. I turned around in time to see Ichigo running towards me, Rukia wasn't far behind either. Those two sure are together a lot...
"Hey, Ichigo," I greeted, waving at the orange haired boy in his school uniform.
"Are you out of your mind?!" Ichigo yelled at me, running up to me to grab the collar of my uniform and pull me off the ground.
I blinked. He already knew the answer to that, so why was he asking and why was he so angry? Oh, that's right I put that 'adult' magazine in his locker, I even made sure it would fall out when he opened it. Time to act innocent."Uh, what?" I asked, looking as lost and confused as possible.
"I asked if you were-"
"Ichigo," Rukia cut in abruptly, her voice sounded a bit grim. "Get a hold of yourself, or haven't you noticed...Look at the Chain of Fate."
What the heck is she talking about? And I'm the insane one?
Ichigo looked down at my chest and gaped. I wasn't quite fond of being gaped at so I reached up and punched him in the nose, seemed like the right thing to do. I grunted when I was released and dropped back onto my butt so that Ichigo could clutch at his nose and shout obscenities at me.
"That's what you get for staring at my chest, pervert," I grumbled.
"I wasn't staring at your chest," Ichigo protested vehemently. "I was looking at your Chain of Fate, you idiot!"
"This thing," I asked, wriggling the chain coming out of my chest at him. "What's so fateful about it?"
"The fact that it's severed means you're dead," Ichigo answered snappishly.
I blinked again, several times in fact. "That explains why I'm up here and down there," I said, pointing over the edge of the roof.
"Why are you being so carefree about this? You're dead!"
I shrugged at Ichigo's outburst. "There are worse things."
"Like what," Ichigo yelled. "You're dead. Dead. As in no longer alive!"
"Jeez, Ichigo, you sure do yell a lot. It's not very gentlemanly of you," I grumbled, folding my arms over my chest and looking away indignantly.
I was good at being indignant, not to mention it was really fun to see Ichigo twitch with rage. I choked on the snicker that threatened to slip past my lips as Ichigo glared at me. His hands were in fists in front of him and his eye was twitching uncontrollably, he was mad enough at me because I was dead, didn't need to make him any madder.
"Eiko," Ichigo growled.
"You know maybe we should change my name," I suggested flippantly. I wanted to see how much more red Ichigo could get and see if I could get both eyes to twitch instead of one. It would be fun. "Eiko means long lived child, right? Well, I totally didn't live very long so it's not a very fitting name for a dead teenager. Don't you think, Ichigo?"
There goes that other eye. Yay, score for me... Uh oh... I think I may have gone a little too far.
I tried to look innocent when Ichigo bent down to put his face directly in front of mine, our noses were almost touching and I swear there were sparks flying around his head. That could have just been my imagination overreacting to the amount of anger he was directing at me though.
"Stop joking around before I throw you off the roof."
"Um, I'd hate to ruin your fun, but I kinda already got thrown off the roof." I chuckled nervously when Ichigo's eye began to twitch again. "I think."
"You think? You mean you don't know what happened?" Rukia asked.
Oh, yeah, I forgot she was there. She sure has been awfully quiet.
"Nope, no clue. I was up here one minute and then the next I was looking down there at my body. It was weird. Now that I think of it if I'm dead then why can you two see me?"
"It's complicated," Ichigo replied.
"I'm dead, Ichigo, I've got lots of free time. Explain."
"I don't want to. You'd just yell at me for not telling you sooner."
"You mean you've been keeping things from me?"
Ichigo looked away.
"That's a yes," I grumbled sulkily. I grumble a lot...
"Sorry, Eiko, but it was for the best."
"Fine," I sighed. I couldn't stay mad at Ichigo, he looked pathetic when he was guilty. "I'm sure you had your reasons."
"Not to interrupt, but can we get back to the problem at hand," Rukia asked, her voice was tinged with annoyance.
"What problem?" Ichigo and I asked together.
I had never seen Rukia mad before and judging by the look on her face right now which was bordering on becoming just that, I figured it was best that I remember to not tick off the small girl. She looked scary.
I don't like scary things... They're scary.
"Eiko is dead," Rukia replied in answer to their question.
"Oh, yeah," Ichigo and I mused together.
"Why am I dead?"
"Yeah, why is she dead?" Ichigo asked thoughtfully.
He sat down next to me and scratched at his head.
"You look like a monkey," I commented, chuckling like an insane person.
"That's enough," Rukia snapped. "Now pay attention!"
"Yes, ma'am," the two of us chirped, straightening up and facing Rukia as seriously as we could mange.
"Eiko, do you remember why you were on the roof?" Rukia asked.
"Hmm... I would assume I was waiting for Ichigo. We always meet up here before school so he can help me with whatever homework I didn't get the night before."
"Is that true, Ichigo?" Rukia asked.
"Yeah, we've met on the roof of our schools since we were kids. Eiko has this thing for being up high. I think it's because she's so short. Ow!"
I scowled at Ichigo as he rubbed the top of his head where I had punched him. "Just because I'm shorter than you doesn't mean I'm short."
"Yes it does," Ichigo protested.
"Does too, shorty!"
"Does not, abnormally tall freak of a dandelion head!"
"Smooth, Eiko. You never were very good at come backs," Ichigo said sarcastically before rolling his eyes at me.
"And you were never very good at anything."
"See," Ichigo snorted. "And I'm better at a lot more things than you. You can't even pass half of our classes without stealing my homework!"
"Stealing is such an ugly word. It's borrowing," I pointed out indignantly, looking away stubbornly.
Ichigo snorted again, now it was my turn to start to twitch.
"You also can't run a straight line if the line was painted on the ground."
So I was a bit unbalanced.
"You also can't walk UP a flight of stairs without falling DOWN them. How do you do that?"
I did it carefully, that's how. What did this have to do with anything anyway? Why were we suddenly talking about what I couldn't do?
"And you can't go five minutes without meowing for no reason."
So maybe I was unbalanced in more ways than one. So what? Who cared? And why were we still talking about the things I couldn't do?
"You can't even die right."
"Oh shut up you stupid strawberry! At least I don't start screaming in the middle of class because the weird thingamabob you have tied to your belt starts screeching. I mean who the hell carries a pager and freaks out every time it goes off?!"
Ichigo looked like he was about to say something, but stopped and snapped his mouth closed. He then cocked his head to the side and blinked at me like I was some kind of freak. I mean I may have been dead and all, but that was no reason to stare... Besides, he was the freak. He could see me.
Oh, wait, I already knew that Ichigo could see spirits, he had told me when we were kids. I could see them too now that I think about it.
Wow, I really am unbalanced, aren't I?
"Wait, you could see that thing?" Ichigo asked.
"Of course, stupid, it was only tied to your belt in plain sight."
Ichigo looked over at Rukia, she appeared to have given up trying to talk to us since we had a bad habit of acting like five year old children.
"I don't know what it means that she could see-"
"Hey, you can see them too, can't you? The Hollows?" Ichigo asked, looking at me and cutting Rukia off.
I noticed Rukia's eyes widen and wondered what was going on.
"Hollows? What are Hollows?" I asked.
"They're souls of the dead that never crossed over to the Soul Society and were left to wander the living world for too long. They became lost and in their despair, their souls were corrupted and they became monsters that live by devouring human souls," Rukia explained seriously.
"None of what you said makes any sense," I replied, shaking my head and shifting around on the ground. I was becoming very uncomfortable with the rather abrupt and drastic change in the atmosphere. "Soul Society? Monsters eating human souls? I don't understand any of it."
Rukia was frowning at me now, her face set into a thoughtful expression.
"I should have realized you could see them. After all, you can see spirits just like I can," Ichigo spoke up.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I snapped much more harshly than I had intended, but I couldn't help it. I was confused. What did seeing spirits have to do with these monsters that ate souls and most of all what did it have to do with me?
"Eiko," Ichigo sighed, laying one of his rough hands on my shoulder and giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I know this is scary, but we're just trying to figure out what happened to you."
"Does it matter?" I asked, refusing to look up at Ichigo I stared at my hands that I had folded in my lap. I was no longer in the happy mood I had been only a few minutes ago. "I'm dead, Ichigo. Does it matter how I died?"
"Of course it does, Eiko," Ichigo replied.
I looked over at him and managed a weak smile in response to the reassuring one he was trying to give to me. "I don't know if you know this or not, Ichigo, but you really suck at this whole reassuring thing."
"Hey, what the hell is that supposed to mean?" he snapped.
I giggled and shook my head. There was the Ichigo I knew, the hot tempered friend who had always stood by me and had never minded my strange affinity for meaningless verbal warfare. "Nothing. I was just kidding."
"You'd better be or I'll konso your ass right now!"
"Uh, what? Konso?"
"Uh, never mind," Ichigo replied quickly, looking away as if he were really interested in the tree over there.
"Wait," I muttered, my eyebrows drawing together. "I remember...A man.. He was dressed funny and he was asking about Ichigo."
"A man? Who?" Ichigo asked.
"Ichigo, the spiritual pressure we felt-"
"It was an Arrancar," Ichigo finished for Rukia.
"An Arran...What kinda car is that?"
"An Arrancar. They're very strong Hollows that have been given the powers of Soul Reapers," Rukia replied in answer to my question.
All I could do was blink at her. I mean did she really think that her explanation was all that.. explanatory? I had no idea what half the words coming out of her mouth meant.
"What did the guy look like?" Ichigo asked.
And was it just me or did he look really pissed off now? He wouldn't even look at me, he was glaring at the ground and his hands were tightly fisted in his lap.
"He..." I trailed off and sighed, frowning. I couldn't really remember much, but I knew something had been wrong with the whole thing. I had the distinct sense that he hadn't been human.
"We can assume it was an Arrancar who had been here before, didn't you say the spiritual pressure was familiar, Ichigo," Rukia asked.
"Yeah," he ground out. "It felt like the same pale, black haired freak that-"
"With the green eyes and the green lines running down his cheeks?" I asked abruptly.
Ichigo's head snapped towards me and I could see the surprise written on his face. "Yeah, that's him. Was it him you saw?"
I jumped at the sound of Ichigo's voice. Had I spaced out? All I knew was that I felt strange and very sad for some reason I couldn't quite place.
"Yeah, it was him," I answered slowly. "I had thought that I had seen Orihime coming up here, I was trying to catch up to her to see what the heck she was doing at school so early, but when I got up here it was just that man. Orihime had vanished."
"A trick?" Rukia questioned, but she didn't appear to be speaking to either Ichigo or I, she looked thoughtful as she folded her arms over her chest and stared down at the ground. "No that can't be right..Why would the Arrancar lure Eiko up here? I mean I can sense spiritual energy from her, but not enough to get Aizen's attention."
"It does seem weird," Ichigo agreed. "Maybe she was in the wrong place at the wrong time?"
"Maybe," Rukia answered.
"He asked if I was a friend of Ichigo's, I didn't answer. I asked who he was and where Orihime had gone. I guess he didn't like my response because he glared at me. After that, I don't remember much, he muttered something about trash and that's the last thing I remember," I offered, hoping that the few things I remembered could be helpful to the two people who seemed to be very concerned over what had happened.
I glanced over at Ichigo after hearing him growl quietly. He was shaking violently, his teeth were smashed together and his face was tinted with red. I had seen Ichigo angry before, but this was new. He looked... murderous.
"I'll kill him," he snarled.
My eyes widened. Was this really the Ichigo I had grown up with? Was he the same person? Because he certainly didn't feel like it. I was having a hard time breathing all of a sudden, it was as if a heavy weight was pushing against my chest the more that his anger grew.
"Ichigo," Rukia snapped. "Look at what you're doing to Eiko! Control yourself!"
Ichigo gasped and spun his head in my direction, I was panting now and clutching at my chest. I was pretty sure I was white as a sheet too, I couldn't get any oxygen until I felt the pressure on me lift and I sucked in a deep breath, falling forward so that my forehead was touching the cool concrete of the rooftop.
"Eiko!" Ichigo cried worriedly.
One of his hands was on my back, the other on my shoulder. I felt him lift my shoulder carefully and before I knew it I was leaning against him while I choked and gasped for breath.
"Sorry about that," he said apologetically. "I got a little carried away. Just relax, alright?"
I swallowed, but nodded weakly since I didn't have the strength to open my mouth and speak.
"She must have had some unfinished business if she didn't pass on on her own," Rukia spoke up softly. "You know what you have to do, Ichigo."
"I know," Ichigo answered quietly, he sounded almost sad.
Was he sad because of my death and why did it hurt so much to know that I would never be able to lean against him like this again? I felt hot salty tears sting my eyes and spill down my cheeks. I sniffled in an attempt to fight off the tears before Ichigo could notice, but my attempt failed miserably.
"I'm not crying!"
"Uh.." Ichigo chuckled lightly, his grip on me tightened. "Right, of course not. Sorry."
"You'd better be."
"Ichigo," Rukia urgently cut in. "The students are starting to arrive. Eiko's body will be discovered soon."
"Yeah, you're right." Ichigo released his hold on me and stood up.
I watched wide eyed as Rukia smacked him upside the head, there were now two Ichigo's. One on the ground and one standing in front of me with a determined look on his face and a large sword strapped to his black clad back.
"It's time for you to go, Eiko," he said, his hand grasping the white wrapped hilt of the sword.
Cringing away from him as he pulled the huge sword from his back and rested the blade on his shoulder so that the hilt was pointing at me, I had the sudden urge to do something very crazy.
"It's alright, Eiko, this won't hurt. You'll be at peace in the Soul Society," Ichigo said calmly as I jumped up from the ground.
"I know," I replied, smiling at the look of confusion that passed over his features. "I can sense it. Somehow this all seems very right. So does this," I said, stepping closer to him and lifting myself up on my tiptoes. "I love you, Ichigo Kurosaki. I think I always have. I'll miss you."
Ichigo seemed completely stunned by my admission and even more stunned when I kissed him. I laughed when I skipped back a step to see just how red he had turned. He was spluttering nonsense at me now and it made me feel very light and airy. My body was beginning to fade, but it didn't frighten me it made me smile wider at Ichigo and I waved to my long time friend before my body faded away completely.
"It seems she did whatever it was that she regretted not doing before she died," Rukia spoke up.
Ichigo was silent for a moment, he was hanging his head sadly and there was a distant look in his eyes. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Do you regret not saying anything to her, Ichigo, before she passed on?" Rukia asked curiously.
"Yeah, I guess I do," Ichigo sighed.
"Who knows, maybe you'll have a chance to tell her sometime. We should get going, Eiko's body will be found and we shouldn't be up here when it is."
"Alright," Ichigo replied, slipping himself back into his body and following after Rukia. He stopped at the door, turning to look back at the rooftop. "Goodbye, Eiko."
Four Years Later, in the Soul Society
"It's been a long time since I've been here," Ichigo said, looking around at the buildings that had been rebuilt and the Soul Reapers that were going about their business.
"Before the Winter War, wasn't it?" Rukia asked. "Back then the Seireitei was in an awful state. The damage was extensive and it has taken a long time to get everything back to normal. The Central Offices of the Forty-Six have been restored and peace has finally started to return."
"That's good. Everyone looks a lot happier now," Ichigo observed.
"We won the war and despite the fact we had to fight against people who had once been our allies, the shock has worn off. Everyone is moving on with their lives."
"So, uh, why did you bring me here anyway?" Ichigo inquired, scratching at his disheveled orange haired.
Rukia smiled up at him. "I wanted to show you something."
"Ok, but was it necessary to bring me all the way to the Soul Society? I haven't been here in years, what's with the sudden trip?"
"Like I said, there's something I wanted to show you," Rukia answered cryptically.
Ichigo sighed and sulked while he followed alongside his longtime friend. He had no idea where they were going and would have asked, but he doubted he would get a straight answer out of the black haired girl beside him.
"It's in here," Rukia said, gesturing to a gate set into a white wall.
"The Tenth Division? What are we doing here?" Ichigo asked, confused.
"I'm not going to get a straight answer out of you, am I?"
"Nope," Rukia chirped. "Now just be patient, we're almost there."
In the distance, Ichigo could see someone with white hair standing outside of a grass knoll. His arms were crossed stiffly over his chest as he stared into the field. It took Ichigo a moment to realize he knew the person.
The white haired person turned around with a scowl. "It's Captain Hitsugaya!"
"Hey," Ichigo greeted jovially. "You got taller."
The Captain's brow twitched, but he didn't reply to the statement. Instead he snorted arrogantly and spun back around. "What are you doing here, Kurosaki? Shouldn't you be guarding the living world?"
Ichigo shrugged. "Ask Rukia, she dragged me here."
"I see," Hitsugaya answered, his voice had changed. He didn't sound so angry anymore, but thoughtful. "So you're the one she's been looking for."
"Who, Rukia? She's always known where to find me," Ichigo replied in confusion.
"It's not me," Rukia spoke up. "You see, three years ago a young girl showed up at the gates of the Seireitei. She demanded to be let into the Soul Reaper Academy, but she was denied entry since she had missed the testing dates for new students. Somehow she knew that the test required her to create an orb of spiritual energy and after being denied entrance she created an orb. It was large, engulfed her entire body and was completely stable. Most new students can only create a small orb at first until they learn to control their own spirit energy. But not this girl. Her display had caught the attention of a captain and he asked her why she was trying so hard to get in to the Academy. He asked why she didn't just give up and come back next year."
Hitsugaya snorted, a small smirk tugging up at the corners of his lips. "The brat said that she was looking for someone and she would never give up until she found that person. Apparently, she believed that she could find the person she was looking for in the Seireitei. Out of curiosity I asked her who she was looking for. I still remember her answer, I always will. She had smiled and said she didn't know, that she couldn't remember anymore, but that that wasn't going to stop her from looking. The girl peaked my interest, she was strong and after the war we were so short on Soul Reapers that I pushed for her to be allowed entrance into the Academy. My request was granted and one year later that same girl graduated at the top of her class."
"I don't know what this has to do with me, but I assume this girl was brought into the Tenth Division, right?" Ichigo asked.
Hitsugaya nodded. "Right. She even managed to claim a seat for herself during her induction. The tenth. She's moved up the ranks quickly since then, never once giving up. Whenever she's asked why she's fighting she always says it's so she can find the person she has been searching for even though she doesn't know who that person is or why she is even searching for them."
"It's kind of fitting that she be placed in the Tenth Division," Rukia mused. "After all, the insignia for the Tenth division is the daffodil and it symbolizes mystery and egoism. This girl has fought hard to get here all because she felt that it was the key to meeting some nameless person she couldn't even remember. Rangiku was telling me about her and how she never gave up. I was curious about her, but I never bothered to search her out. I finally met her about four months ago, she was dragged to a party for Kira's birthday.
To say I was surprised when I saw who it was would be an understatement. She didn't appear to remember me though the way I remembered her so I just sat and talked with her under the pretense that I had heard a lot about her and was curious as to what type of person she was. In the end I asked her why she never gave up searching for whoever it was she was looking for and her answer was simple. 'Why would I give up when I've come this far? I may not remember who I'm looking for anymore, but I know they would be angry with me if I started something only to give up. Giving up was something that person never did.' I knew then who she was looking for, not that I was surprised, it made sense. After that, I spent these last few months wondering what I should do, but the answer was pretty simple. I'd help that girl find what she was looking for."
"Why?" Ichigo asked curiously. "It's not like you were friends."
"We may not be the closest of friends, but that doesn't matter. That girl has a beautiful smile, but it never reaches her eyes and she may not know it, but there are a lot of people here who care about her and want to see her happy. I'm one of them," Rukia replied.
"Not that I'm pleased you had to be the one she's looking for, but even I want to see her smile for real. She deserves it after how hard she has worked," Hitsugaya said.
"Wow, Toshiro, didn't know you could be so nice."
"It's Captain Hitsugaya, Kurosaki!"
"Yeah, yeah," Ichigo replied dismissively, flapping a hand in the air. "So who is this girl anyway? And why do you think I'm the one she's looking for?"
"Right now she's fighting for the position of third seat, I'm surprised you hadn't noticed the duel going on in front of you," Hitsugaya stated blandly.
"Huh?" Ichigo blinked and followed the frosty teal eyes of the Tenth division's captain. "Uh, there's nothing-" Ichigo cut himself off when a man and a woman appeared in the field, swords locked together.
At first he thought the man had the upper hand, he was a lot taller and bulkier, but the woman was no slouch. She pushed the man's sword up and away from her before aiming a swift kick to his gut that knocked him onto his back. Holding her sword in front of her gracefully, she brought one hand up in front of her face and though he couldn't hear her speaking he was sure she was performing some kind of kido spell. He was proven right when blue light shot from her palm and wrapped around the man before he could get off the ground. Once his arms were bound behind his back, the woman brutally chopped him on the back off the neck and sent him into a realm of unconsciousness.
Ichigo would have sweat dropped if he could, but he settled for asking, "Uh, she's kinda scary, isn't she?"
The white haired captain chuckled, "No, she's just determined."
"So that's the girl who's been looking for me, huh? Can't say she looks familiar," Ichigo said, scratching at the side of her head as he stared at the black haired woman.
She was sheathing her zanpakuto, facing away from the group he stood with and over her opponent. After bowing to the unconscious man quickly she spun gracefully on her heel and began to walk towards them.
Ichigo gasped when he finally got a good look at the approaching woman, his eyes widening to the point they about popped out of his head for a moment. "T-There's no way," he muttered in disbelief as he watched the black haired woman continue her approach, her eyes fixed solely on Hitsugaya.
Ichigo couldn't believe his eyes and he couldn't think, he could only stare at the black haired, blue eyed woman walking towards him. "E-Eiko?" He stuttered out.
The woman blinked, apparently she had been so focused on Hitsugaya she hadn't noticed anyone else was in the field with him. A strange look crossed over her face and her eyes narrowed in thought while she studied Ichigo.
"Do I..know you?" she asked slowly, it was clear she was debating about whether or not to even ask the question.
Ichigo couldn't even reply he was too stunned at seeing Eiko standing in front of him, sweaty and bruised from her recent fight. She wasn't the same girl he remembered. She was taller now and in much better shape, she had also filled out quite nicely he noted, his cheeks tinging red at the thought.
"Eiko, this is Ichigo Kurosaki, he's the substitute Soul Reaper from Karakura Town," Hitsugaya told his subordinate who was still intently studying Ichigo's face.
"I do know you, don't I?" Eiko asked, stepping closer to Ichigo so that they were only about a foot apart. "Why do I know you?" She inquired softly, not realizing she had spoken out loud. Reaching a hand forward she let her palm rest on Ichigo's cheek for a moment, smiling when he turned bright red at the contact before bursting into laughter for what seemed like no reason to anyone else.
"Uh, what's so funny?" Ichigo asked, his eye beginning to twitch. She may have changed in appearance, but she sure hadn't changed much mentally as far as he could tell.
She stopped laughing after a bit of difficulty, her cheeks were red with amusement and there were tears in her eyes from having laughed so hard. "I'm just a little surprised is all," she replied.
"Surprised, about what?" Ichigo asked grumpily.
"I can tell you're the one I've been looking for, but you're not really what I expected."
"And what did you expect, Eiko?" He growled.
"Oh, you know," she began. "Tall, dark, and really handsome. You're definitely tall, but that's about it." She smirked and folded her arms over her chest.
"Why you..." Ichigo snarled, fisting his hands at his sides and trying to resist the urge to punch the woman who was grinning mischievously at him.
Eiko laughed at Ichigo's anger finding it nostalgic for some reason and before she even realized what she was doing, she stepped forward. The distance between herself and the orange haired soul reaper was gone and with no hesitation, Eiko reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck to pull his head down and place her lips on his.
"Eiko," Hitsugaya half growled, half sighed. "Don't go kissing strange men in front of me, please."
"Hey," Ichigo snapped. "You're the strange one for watching, Toshiro!"
"It's Captain Hitsugaya!"
"Sorry, Captain," Eiko chirped. "I just couldn't help it."
Hitsugaya sighed and shook his head. "Couldn't the person you were searching for have been someone else? Why did it have to be the Kurosaki brat?"
"Hey, I'm right here, you know," Ichigo cried.
"What a pain," the captain sighed, completely ignoring Ichigo's presence.
"Still right here!"
"Congratulations on making third seat, Eiko. The announcement will be made tomorrow. You can take the rest of the day off."
Eiko beamed happily and looped an arm through Ichigo's. "Thank you, Captain Hitsugaya!"
Ichigo let out a strangled yell when he was rather forcefully tugged away from the captain and Rukia without warning. "Where are you taking me, Eiko?!"
"To my room."
"Don't look so innocent," she teased. "I just want to take a shower and change. You don't have to watch, unless you want to of-"
"I was only joking, no need to yell," she grumbled with a small pout on her pink lips.
Sighing, Ichigo let himself be tugged along by Eiko. After a few minutes, he finally had to know. "So...You've been looking for me?"
She nodded, her head bouncing up and down.
"Don't remember anymore," she shrugged nonchalantly.
"But you don't know me."
"No, that's not true. I do know you, I just can't remember why or from where."
"Then why have you been looking for me all these years?" Ichigo asked curiously.
She shrugged again. "I felt that I had to. That I needed to find you...I've felt empty for a very long time, like something was missing from my soul...It's hard to explain. Sorry about earlier, by the way. I wasn't thinking when I kissed you, it just seemed right at the time."
Ichigo chuckled, embarrassed. "Don't worry about it."
"You know me, right, Ichigo?"
"Uh... Well, I..."
"It was when I was alive, wasn't it? It makes sense, you are from the living world after all," Eiko said.
"Yeah, it was while you were alive. We were friends."
Eiko lowered her head and Ichigo could see that she was frowning slightly in what he though was disappointment.
"Just friends," she murmured to herself with a quiet sigh before looking up at Ichigo to give him a falsely bright smile.
It was in that moment that he understood why Rukia would want to see Eiko smile for real. She really was beautiful, even covered in a glossy sheen of sweat and smeared in dirt from her fight, she was beautiful. Her smile should have enhanced this, made her look more radiant, but it didn't. It made her look lost and lonely and it just wasn't fitting for her. The Eiko he remembered, that he had cared deeply about had always smiled and that smile had always reached her eyes. That Eiko was carefree and happy, never worrying and always living for the present.
Having grown up together, helping one another cope with whatever Fate threw at them they had been very close and had known each other quite well. They could usually sense each others emotions and feelings. Like right now Ichigo could sense that Eiko was unhappy with his explanation of their relationship when she had been alive, it was apparent that she had thought there was more to the story and she was disappointed that there wasn't.
"When you died," Ichigo spoke up, jolting Eiko out of her thoughts and causing her to look up at him curiously. "I was with you when your soul passed on. We had always been really good friends and it was that friendship that caused your death. I was angry for a long time that I hadn't been there to save you. I kept letting my friends down back then... Before you died you said something to me, I was never able to reply, you passed on before I could. Then again I don't know if I would have been able to say it anyways, I'm not that good at stuff like that."
"Stuff like what?" Eiko inquired.
Ichigo turned to her and smiled. "Stuff that has to do with expressing emotion."
"Really?" she replied, an eyebrow raising skeptically. "You seem pretty good at expressing your anger."
He twitched at her words.
"I'm tryin' to be serious here, would you be quiet!?" Ichigo snapped.
Eiko chuckled, but nodded. "Sorry."
"I can express anger just fine as you've pointed out, but that's not the type of emotion I'm talking about."
Remaining quiet, Eiko waited for Ichigo to continue. They had reached the barracks now and were standing outside on the porch that wrapped around the building. Eiko still had her arm looped loosely around Ichigo's and was turned partially towards him to watch the expressions on his face. He appeared to be thinking about something, struggling with his own thoughts and emotions as he stared not at her, but at the wooden boards beneath their feet.
"I wonder if you meant it?" Ichigo mused quietly.
All she could do was blink. "Meant what?"
He finally turned back to her. "You told me you loved me. Did you mean it?"
"I... I don't remember my life in the living world, Ichigo," she began, noting the dismayed look that passed over Ichigo's. "But I do know what I can feel now."
"And what's that?"
Smiling, she continued. "That for some strange reason having you next to me makes me very happy. I feel warm and content like this is where I'm supposed to be. I may not remember you or what sort of friendship we had, but I know that I have feelings for you regardless of that. It's a bit silly, but I believe I am in love with you even though I technically don't know you. I don't expect you to return those feelings I know that you have your own life in the world of the living, but I've spent so long searching for you that I think you should know how I feel. I hope it's not a burden because-"
"Eiko," Ichigo cut in. "You still talk too much."
Eiko blinked at him and was about to reply when he turned toward her and pulled her body against his before placing his lips against hers. Her eyes widened and she froze in shock. When he pulled his lips away from hers and rested his forehead against hers, she raised a hand to her lips dreamily.
"I love you too, Eiko."
She couldn't reply, her fingers were skimming over her lips still and her eyes were unfocused and lost in some sort of dream world.
"OW!" She cried out, jumping back to rub at her now sore forehead that Ichigo had rather harshly smashed his own against. "What the hell was that for?!"
"You don't just stand there and stare off into space when a guy tells you he loves you! You're supposed to say it back, idiot! Especially since I don't say stuff all mushy like that very often!" Ichigo yelled, waving a finger around in her face as he did so.
Rubbing at her forehead, Eiko scowled at Ichigo. "You headbutted me," she muttered sourly.
Bristling, Ichigo folded his arms over his chest stiffly and looked away. "You know what, just forget it."
"You can't just say forget it now, it's a little late for that," Eiko retorted. "Besides, I wasn't ignoring you or anything I was just a little dazed, alright? It's not everyday that you meet someone you don't know, but have been in love with for as long as you can remember and have them say they love you too."
Ichigo ignored her and stubbornly continued to stare out over the Tenth squad's lush green grounds.
Eyebrow twitching, she stepped forward and grabbed the collar of Ichigo's shirt and tugged him down so that their foreheads were nearly touching once again. "Stop acting like a spoiled child."
"Look who's talking," Ichigo grumbled.
Her brow twitched again. "You know what, never mind," she said, releasing him and stubbornly turning her back on him to walk into the barracks to her room. "I guess I won't tell you that I love you."
"Hey, wait! You love me?" Ichigo questioned, following after her.
"Didn't we already establish that?"
"Well, yeah, I guess we did..."
"You're an idiot," she mumbled.
"Hey, don't call me an idiot, idiot!"
"Nice come back."
"Oh shut up," Ichigo grunted.
"Sure, whatever you say, Ichigo," Eiko chirped boredly.
After a few seconds, Ichigo spoke up. "So...Are you gonna say it or not?"
"You know what."
"No, no I don't."
"Eiko, don't be difficult."
"Come on, just tell me."
"Tell you what, Ichigo?"
"You know what!"
"Would the two of you shut up already! You're acting like children!"
Eiko and Ichigo froze, turning to look down the hall to see Captain Hitsugaya frowning at them, his lips pulled into a scowl and his right eyebrow twitching uncontrollably.
"Jeez, you didn't have to yell," Ichigo muttered.
"Yeah, it really wasn't necessary, Captain. If we were bothering you, you could have just said so," Eiko agreed.
Hitsugaya growled under his breath at the two people who were looking casually at him. "Would the two of you just hurry up and get out of here! I thought I gave you the day off, Eiko? If you're going to spend it with the substitute soul reaper then do it somewhere that isn't on the squad grounds!"
"Whatever you say, Captain," Eiko replied. "I just wanted to clean up first. It hardly seems right to go out on a date all stinky and dirty."
"Wait, this is a date?" Ichigo asked quickly. "I didn't know this was a date! I didn't bring anything else to wear!"
Sighing and rubbing at his temples that were beginning to throb painfully, the squad Ten captain left the two bickering in the hall to get some tea and curse whoever was responsible for making Ichigo Kurosaki the one that his new third seat had been searching for and was apparently in love with.
"Couldn't she have fallen in love with someone else? Even Abarai would have been better than the Kurosaki brat."
Yet another attempt at humor from me in the form of a oneshot. I haven't gotten any reviews for any of my oneshots, I'm a bit disappointed, but I have gotten several favorites for them so it's not all bad.